8 yellow cards, 1 red, 5 goals: Intense clash sees Tampines prevail
Stags outlast Ceres in extra time to book first final since 2012
SEMI-FINAL, SECOND LEG
CERES LA SALLE 2
(Stephan Schrock 45+1-pen, Patrick Reichelt 78)
TAMPINES ROVERS 3
(Hafiz Abu Sujad 57, Afiq Yunos 105, Saifullah Akbar 112)
- Tampines win 5-3 on aggregate
Eight yellow cards, one red, five goals and plenty of drama.
Tampines Rovers booked a place in the final of this year's RHB Singapore Cup with a 5-3 aggregate win over Philippine side Ceres la Salle at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday and, boy, it was a hotly contested clash.
The two sides played a tempestuous first leg last Sunday, which Tampines won 2-1.
That match also saw eight yellow cards flashed and was clearly fresh in the memories of both sets of players.
WHAT A GAME: Tampines went on to win the feisty encounter, with Saifullah Akbar (above, left) scoring the winner. TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
With Tampines missing the suspended trio of Shakir Hamzah, Yasir Hanapi and skipper Mustafic Fahrudin - who joined injured striker Fazrul Nawaz on the sidelines - they spent most of the first half on the back foot.
Right at the end of the first half, they were dealt a blow when referee Mohd Taqi penalised defender Afiq Yunos for handball in the box.
Up stepped former Hoffenheim midfielder Stephan Schrock to fire Ceres into the lead from the penalty spot and put his team level on aggregate.
Ten minutes after the break, Ceres striker Patrick Reichelt saw his effort beat Izwan Mahbud but come off the upright.
The miss proved costly, as just two minutes later, Hafiz Abu Sujad latched onto a chested pass by Billy Mehmet to finish home and hand the aggregate lead back to the Stags.
All this while, both sets of players were getting into heated arguments about niggly fouls, which Taqi struggled to control.
Things almost came to a boil in the 73rd minute when Izwan booted the ball out for teammate Sufian Anuar to receive treatment and sent the ball flying in the direction of the Ceres bench.
Ceres proved they were not cowed, and clawed back to force the tie to extra time, when Reichelt finished from close range in the 78th minute.
But, six minutes before the end of regulation time, ex-ADO Den Haag midfielder Paul Mulders picked up his second booking, and a red card, for a foul on Jordan Webb.
Ceres were punished again nine minutes into extra time, when Reichelt was stretchered off with a badly injured knee, with his team having already made three substitutions.
Tampines took advantage of their two extra men, when Afiq Yunos headed home in the 105th minute.
Substitute Saifullah Akbar then made sure of the win with a goal seven minutes later, after good work from Webb.
Ceres coach Ali Bernard pointed to the sending-off of Mulders as the decisive moment of the game.
"When he gave the red card... It was as though he (ref) gave away the game," said the coach.
"That was the turning point, but what can we do? Even with nine men, the boys gave everything.
"Tampines are a strong team and playing them 11 versus 11 is already very hard. With nine men, it's almost impossible."
Stags coach Akbar Nawas was ecstatic to steer Tampines into their first Singapore Cup final since 2012, when they lost 2-1 to Warriors FC.
"It's a wonderful feeling," said the rookie coach, who took over the reins of Tampines only in June.
"When you're down in a game like that, the way that we played and fought... It was a really good win," he said.
Tampines have not won the Singapore Cup since 2006 - they were also losing finalists in 2007 and 2010 - but Akbar refused to think ahead to the final, which is yet to be confirmed but likely to be scheduled in the last week of October.
"We still have the AFC Cup (quarter-final) and S.League to think about... I might forget there's a final," he quipped.
"Taking one game at a time has worked for us, so that's what we'll keep doing."
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Izzdin Shafiq (Tampines)
- CERES: Louie Casas, Carli de Murga (Jeffrey Christiaens 55), Jason Sabio (Jalsor Soriano 91), Kim Sang Min, Kevin Ingreso, Paul Mulders, Martin Steuble, Stephan Schrock, Manuel Ott (Arnie Jr Pasinabo 75), Bienvinido Moranon, Patrick Reichelt
- TAMPINES: Izwan Mahbud, Ismadi Mukhtar, Jufri Taha, Afiq Yunos, Irwan Shah, Sufian Anuar (Saifullah Akbar 106), Izzdin Shafiq, Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Billy Mehmet (Shafie Muliantoh 114).